Engaging children with disabilities
9 May 2012 / 0 Comments
In West Sussex we ran four Chatterbooks projects to engage with disabled children which was supported by 'Short Breaks' funding. The Aiming High for Disabled Children Short Breaks transformation programme was designed to ensure that disabled children and young people had greater access to services and activities in their local and wider community. A Short Break was defined as a positive activity for the child or the young person, where the parent/carer had a break from their caring responsibilities.
I ran a Chatterbooks group in Chichester over a six-weeks. I have a good partnership with the local special educational needs school and liaised with one of the teachers to select children who would most benefit from the project. The children I worked with had different types of disabilities including: being on the autistic spectrum, dyspraxia, downs syndrome, aspergers syndrome and mobility impairment.
Using multi-sensory stories
I worked with seven children over the six sessions. We took a different story each week and used varying tools to bring the stories to life. The first session was used as an introduction where I used ice-breakers so we could all get to know each other which was followed by sharing the Matilda Multi-Sensory Storytime.
Multi-Sensory stories, also know as Bag Books, are designed to be used with children who have profound and multiple learning disabilities or visual impairment. Boxes contain a script and a series of interactive 'pages' for children and young people to share with a parent, care or sibling. The Matilda box is the first one to be based on a story and has props and interactions to bring the well loved Roald Dahl book to life.
In sessions two, three and five we shared a story or stories and then had a craft related activity. These included modelling characters out of clay and making superheroes and monsters out of potatoes. In session four we had a workshop using a local contact who used dressing up to retell a story. The final session was used as a celebration event where we invited the parents to come and share what we had done in the previous sessions. We booked the Storytelling company OrangeApples to peform at this session.
What parents and teachers thought
There has been such a wonderful response from the parents and the teachers. The overriding message is that they would like more events like this for children of all abilities. There was one girl in particular who was very shy at the beginning of the sessions but by the end she interacted well with all the stories and was keen to engage. Her mum said that she "...is able to engage with stories well and this has been fabulous". When asked how she might use the library in the future she said that she will now "...come in and look at books with her daughter". Another parent said how enjoyable the sessions were and when asked what she would take home from it said "A brilliant memory".
Continuing the work
Our remit was to run a programme of events that would expose the children to a range of literary and cultural experiences that would hopefully encourage them to continue to access the library service. I feel confident in saying that this has been achieved. Several of the children have now become library members and they have all been shown new ways to enjoy and access stories.
There are currently two other Chatterbooks groups running in West Sussex that are specifically aimed at disabled children and we hope to continue with this work throughout the next year. We have gained some invaluable links with local special needs schools which we hope to build on in the coming months.
Like to tell us about the work you've been doing in your Chatterbooks group? Do get in touch.